Teresa is tired. Her six month old baby kept her up most of the night, teething and she felt really guilty leaving her today to do a twelve hour shift on the HDU.
Still Teresa likes her job. She gives one to one care on the unit to people who need special treatment and today her patient is “Michael” a 72 year old man who has had major surgery. and needs constant care and observation for while, till his blood pressure stabilises..
Teresa smiles at Michaels wife, who looks so different to the strained woman who was here last night. Tonight she is bright eyed and relaxed. Teresa had sensed the tension in her when the woman had arrived, only to find her husband still in theatre after goodness know how many hours. Teresa had made her a cup of tea and gave her some magazines to read to pass the time.
Teresa has no idea how much this small act of empathy and kindness meant to the woman at the time.
You really get to know people on a twelve hour shift. Sometimes you don’t always like them, but hey, they are human beings in an anxious and vulnerable state and sometimes that makes people grumpy. or whiney. Often that is a sign they are getting better. The really poorly ones are often quiet and compliant. When they get better and can be transferred to the wards, you get a great feeling of satisfaction, a job well done.
Occasionally it does not work out that way and somebody dies. Of course that makes you sad. and it always makes you question if you could have done better. Even when you know you have done all you could. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t. But in the main the good outcomes outweigh the bad.
There are four beds on the unit and four colleagues. Amy and Jo are excitedly planning a trip to Turkey together . Can you imagine?, two weeks away from bleeping heart monitors and blood pressure alarms, flashing infusion pumps and oxygen catheters. Two weeks of sun sea and relaxation. away from the fatigue of the four -o -clock -in the -mornng energy crash, when sometims you just can’t think straight. Oh it will be heaven!
They show the brochure to the others. But Jo and Amy are worried today because they don’t really know if the manager will allow them the time off together.
The fourth member of the team is Joyce. Joyce is thinking “I am getting too old for this” the long hours and emotionally draining work is getting a bit too much for her and she is planning to retire in a couple of months. As the date approaches Joyce is finding it more and more difficult. She is so looking forward to being able to lie in in the morning , but she is dreading missing her team…. and the patients too. She will miss feeling she is making a difference. She spends most of her time off, relaxing. Too tired to do anything active. When she retires she is going to travel. She will go to see her daughter and her grandchildren in Australia. Joyce is also dreaming of taking up painting, something she has always wanted to do since art classes at school. Many years ago.
Michaels wife sits and observes while her husband dozes. She follows the nurses with her eyes as they go about their work. She notices everything. She hears everything, every little nuance of their body language. Every word they say. Every smile every sigh every expression . Almost as if the anxiety had made her super sensitive as she scans their faces for clues of what the future will hold.
She notices that Teresa has the most beautiful eyes. Clear green with long dark lashes. She notices that Teresa used those eyes to keep eye contact with her husband while she patiently listened to one of his stories, in between calmly checking his machines, drips, drains and urine bag.
For now the woman id SO grateful that her husband can have such wonderful care from these kind women. Everybody has been exceptionally kind, except the one theatre transfer nurse last night, who barked at her to wait in the waiting room, when she anxiously stood at the door. These nurses do not realise how hypersensitive worried relatives are.
The woman is so relieved he has come through the surgery for cancer.
Just for today she feels they are safe in their hands.